“The University of Sydney does not consider the Boycott, Divestment and
Sanctions policy appropriate and it is not University of Sydney policy,” Dean
Duncan Ivison of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences said.
responding to inquiries on the recent lawsuit filed by the Shurat HaDin Legal
Action Center against Prof. Jake Lynch.
At the same time, said Ivison,
“we encourage academics to contribute to public debate and deliberations on
issues spanning local, national and international boundaries within their area
of expertise, in conformity with the law and the policies and obligations of the
university. For this reason the university does not intend to take any specific
further action on this matter.”
While attempts were made to reach Lynch,
the only response was an automatic email indicating that he was on research
leave until February 2014. Ivison clarified that the leave was unrelated to the
events of the case and was scheduled beforehand.
In an online post on
June 25, Lynch wrote that “the charge that the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions
campaign against Israel is anti-Semitic fails its only salient test. The target
of BDS is not Jews or Judaism, but militarism and lawlessness, argues Jake
On July 31, Shurat HaDin filed a class action complaint with the
Australian Human Rights Commission over Lynch’s participation in and public
support of boycotts of Israel.
According to Shurat HaDin, faculty and
students at the University of Sydney recently called for severing links with
Israeli institutions, “actions that would be deemed racist and in violation of
Australian federal anti-discrimination laws.”
The complaint – which
Shurat HaDin’s solicitor Alexander Hamilton filed under Australia’s Racial
Discrimination Act 1975 – is the “first time that a Racial Discrimination Act
action has been launched in Australia against those promoting boycotts,
sanctions and divestment (BDS) against the Jewish state,” the NGO
“It is the first time that Australia’s anti-racism laws have been
utilized against those seeking to harm Israeli academics or businesses because
of their national origin,” it continued.
Ivison said that despite the
lawsuit, “the university has received no communication from the Human Rights
Commission concerning the matter.”
He added that regarding the validity
of the discrimination claim, “the university has no comment to make on the legal
issues around the lawsuit.”
In its letter to the commission, Shurat HaDin
pointed out that the Racial Discrimination Act made it unlawful for anyone “to
do any act involving a distinction, exclusion...
or preference based on
race... or national or ethnic origin which has the purpose... of
nullifying or impairing... fundamental freedom in the... economic,
social, cultural or any other field of public life.”
The complaint also
noted that any boycott of Israeli “settlement products,” such as SodaStream and
Ahava, harmed Palestinian economic interests, since the factories employed many
Palestinian workers and provided an important source of income for local
families and villages.
This past semester, the university’s student body
endorsed Lynch’s academic boycott of Israel, Shurat HaDin said.
the university’s relations with Israeli academics and Israel in general, Ivison
said that “the university takes no particular position on Israel nor on any
other country with which our government maintains diplomatic
Shurat HaDin said Lynch had publicly announced his refusal to
work with Prof. Dan Avnon of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s political
science department and also called for a boycott of the Technion-Israel
Institute of Technology in Haifa.
Shurat HaDin said it had warned Lynch
last month to cease participation “in unlawful, and racist, boycott
The legal NGO added that Lynch had ignored its
Next, the it said that authorities such as the Anti-Defamation
League and the Simon Wiesenthal Center had recognized the BDS movement as
Hamilton called the BDS movement “racist by its own
definition, because it seeks to discriminate and impose adverse preference based
on Israeli national origin and Jewish racial and ethnic origin of people and